Stuck in a slump? It may be the best thing for you.

Golf is a game full of up and downs, and I’m not just talking about saving par.

What I mean is that everyone’s “career” with golf, whether playing professionally or playing on the weekend with buddies goes though periods of highs and lows.  Whether it’s missing 5 or 10 cuts in row, or shooting 10 strokes above normal for your last 5 or 10 rounds, we all go through tough times trying to get that little white ball into the cup.  We all get into occasional slumps.

I’ve been on a bit of a slump myself.  After shooting some of my best rounds of the year several weeks ago, I have fallen into a deep fog, where it seems like I had lost all control of my golf ball.  We’ll at least until today, although the seeds of the discovery were sown a while back, but I’ll get to that shortly.

The slump seems to have come out of nowhere.  My last round before the slump was a 77.  I’m not yet a scratch golfer so 77 on a tough par 72 course from the back tees is just fine with me.  However when the slump started it began a downward slide in scores.  Before I knew it I had several 88s, a 90, and the dagger in my heart was 97 in the member member tournament yesterday.

Although I wasn’t sure how I would fix it, I firmly believe that I will.  I also know that I’m not the only golfer to have gone through slumps either.  Jack Nicklaus, Steve Stricker, David Duval, Davis Love III, Ian Baker-Finch and many more have gone through their share of slumps.  Steve Stricker came back from “no man’s land” to world #3.

How they fixed their individual slumps is another story, but knowing that even the worlds best players go through times like these, gives me hope that I can get my game together, and take it to even higher levels.

I also believe that whatever happens can be a blessing in disguise.  In my case, the slump made really dig deep and address some swing flaws.  I knew that I didn’t want this inconsistency any more and I became determined to find a way to fix it.

Last night, hours after coming home from the the worst score of the season at that tournament, I had a thought that turned into a deep examination of a flaw, what caused it, and how to make it go away.  I remember something that my coach Eben Dennis said to me in a discussion we had about Jamie Sadlowski.  The more I thought about that conversation, the more I realized he was right, although I still wasn’t sure what to do with that information.

It was a moment where I challenged a deeply held subconscious belief about the golf swing.  And as I worked with that thought, things began to click.

My major flaw had come into being a long time ago as I had decided that I was going to learn how to create big time lag.  Sure enough I learned how to create lag, but the way I did it, made it extremely timing dependent when it came to releasing it through the ball.  As Eben put it, I was “dragging the club head” through the finish.  This drag made it really difficult to square the club face at impact.  I also realized that this dragging result, was not the cause of my mis hits.  It was actually an effect of a different flaw.

I realized that if I wanted to play well and consistently, I need to address the root cause and not just band aid the effects.  I set out to discover the cause, and I believe that I have found it, at least as it pertains to my swing.

Something else interesting happened along the way.  If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’ve analyzed Rickie Fowler’s swing.  Well, I now believe that my previous analysis of his swing, was incorrect.  I was simply looking from the outside in, at what he was doing.  Well, the reason I bring this up, is that without trying to copy him, my swing seems to now have some of the same characteristics of his swing.  What’s more is that now I have a better sense of where his consistency comes from.

When I look at video of both swings together, side by side there are some pretty clear similarities, but there are also some major differences.  Now let me repeat this, I did not set out to copy or imitate Rickie Fowler’s swing.  It’s unconventional, and I think most golf teachers would steer clear of that, but there are some elements about it that work very, very well.

The main element about Rickie’s swing that I understand now, is that from start to finish, it never gets to a point where he has to “save it with his hands”.  He doesn’t really get stuck to where he needs to flip it or where’s going to block it (the way Tiger Woods often does).  In fact his whole swing is designed to bring the club head back to square at impact in an extremely efficient way.

I bring up the Rickie Fowler reference because as I watched video of my swing, it reminded me of Rickie’s but in my own way.  And like I said, I’m not trying to copy him.  I was just trying to find the most efficient way for me to bring the club head back to square at impact, and it’s probably just a coincidence that there’s any resemblance to his swing.

So how did this swing perform?

At home, I use the driving range on my dancin’ dogg simulator basically to look at two statistics: club face angle, and swing path.  From the day that I got the simulator, I always had a difficult time getting my face angle to square.   I would occassionally be able to do it.  The reason for that, is that the dragging effect I talked about above, made it very hard to square the face.  Recently it’s gotten somewhat better, where I could keep the face in the +2 to plus 5 degrees open.  With a path enough from the inside these allow for little draws, or baby fades.

With the changes that I made last night, and this morning, I was able to keep the face 0.0 to 0.7 degrees open, consistently.  This is essentially a square face.  That is a dramatic improvement.  You can imagine how shocked I was when I was able to do this 20 times in a row.  But I didn’t just want to take the simulator’s “word” for it.  So I went to the driving range to see if the results held up there too.

They did.  I don’t remember ever hitting the ball as straight as I did this morning.  And it just kept happening, ball after ball.  I believe that I will be out of my slump soon, and in a weird way, I have the slump to thank for this.  It got me to the point where I knew that what I was doing before, just was not going to work in the long run.  I knew I had to get to the root of the major flaw and fix it.  So, thank you Slump, you’re a great teacher in disguise.

Control distance with trajectory

http://www.protee-united.com/images/stories/golfsimulator/screenshot-17.jpgThere are many excellent reasons to learn to control your distance with trajectory.  Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Not every shot is a full shot.  The more you can learn to master partial shots, the more control you’ll have approaching greens.
  2. Dealing with the wind.  Lower trajectory shots fly better in the wind and are less likely to be taken off line.  Have a short shot and it’s a windy day? Take more club and use a partial shot to take the wind out of play.
  3. Helps your short game.  Partial shots are all about feel, control and imagination, learn to do this and it will make your wedge game and short irons so much more effectively.  It will also open up more of the green enabling you to play safer shots to tucked pins and still get the ball close.
  4. Learn solid contact.  Partial shots require you to stay within yourself.  The more you practice these the more you’ll learn to feel how a solid shot feels.  Trust me, it transfers to your long game and full shots and makes you a better ball striker with every club.

Take the 30 day challenge: wedges and learn how to control your irons and wedges with more imagination and creativity.  You’ll learn valuable things that will help your entire game and make you a better player.